Chief Minister Harish Rawat faces possibly the toughest challenge in his five- decade-old political career after a secret CD was aired in which his former secretary is alleged to be striking a deal with a liquor trader. The allegations come on the back of an earlier controversy over government officials milking the 2013 natural disaster that killed more than 5,000 people. In an interview to Hindustan Times, the CM said he and his government will emerge clean out of the charges, despite the BJP’s efforts to destabilise the government. Excerpts of the interview:
On the liquor policy of the state coming into question.
I introduced a transparent liquor policy. The wholesale distribution is in the hands of government-run corporations and no private parties are involved. I was surprised to see Union minister Nirmala Sitaraman’s statement that liquor trade is in private hands in Uttarakhand. This used to be during the BJP regime in the state. The BJP was not sure about the facts and is alleging corruption, how come? The BJP distributed CDs showing my former secretary in the footage. I have demanded that (they) provide details on what was the motive behind the sting, where and when it was done and whether the apex court guidelines were followed. The ball is in their court and they need to corroborate the facts.
On the sting denting the image of the government?
Both yes and no. The people of the state need to understand the game behind such concocted stings. If they don’t then definitely it is a dent on the government. I am aware of the fact that a few land sharks were making undue pressure for long on my office to clear certain files. Such people have laid a trap to blackmail the government. By the way, I support stings if they are done to unearth corruption.
On the government facing allegations of corruption in 2013 relief operations
The so-called scam happened in June 2013 when I was not the CM but I am heading the government (now) and am responsible to face the questions. The chief secretary in his report clarified some misleading information given under the RTI Act. I have invited the media to form a committee and cross check the report submitted by chief secretary. Calling it a scam is an insult to those who worked in tough conditions and sub-zero temperature to restore normalcy after the 2013 flash floods in the Kedarnath valley. But again BJP is playing politics on this issue.
On BJP playing politics
They are perturbed as government has brought normalcy in the Kedarnath valley. The government is working for connecting the major religious spots in the hills through ropeways. The successful Char Dham pilgrimage has brought confidence among the locals and pilgrims. The BJP thinks that I have snatched their ‘Hindu agenda’ from them and, therefore, they are worried a lot.
On the BJP demand for a CBI probe against the government
The sudden love of the BJP for the CBI which they used to call the ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation’ is astonishing. In fact, the CBI has become MBI (Modi Bureau of Investigation). I know it (CBI) will be used against my government. I also believe a few more CDs might emerge in a bid to train the guns on the Uttarakhand government.
On the Congress central leadership’s support for him
See my duty is to prove that I and the government are clear of all doubts. I have a five-decade-old political career and have seen many ups and down. I am confident I will emerge stronger and the Congress will win the 2017 assembly polls as we did in all the by-polls. And if it happens then it will be the last nail in the BJP’s coffin before they face the general polls in 2019.